Triggers from sexual abuse

Triggers: What are they?

braam (18)It still happens to me, every so often, that I get triggered by something around me. All of a sudden I feel very small and uncomfortable inside.
Nowadays I recognize the feeling. Something touches me subconsciously and it usually is related to the sexual abuse in my past.

Normal circumstances

Last time it happened I was in a department store, looking for a belt. I have Iost some weight, which is in itself good news for me, but I can’t afford to buy a new wardrobe every month. So I looked for a belt to help keep my pants up. At the lady’s department I couldn’t find any belts, so we headed to the men’s. They always have plenty.

Anxiety

About halfway down the aisle I felt very anxious. My girlfriend was already looking through the many belts displayed, trying to find the perfect one. “How about this one,” she asked me joyfully while holding up a small black belt with a simple buckle.
Suddenly I feel disconnected. I try to find any and every excuse to not buy this belt, none of which make any sense. Inside I feel like I want to run away and never come back. Luckily my girlfriend noticed my discomfort and knew we had to take my mind elsewhere.

Dealing with triggers

Step out of the moment. My friend suggested:
“Let’s go get a cup of coffee first.” 
After we drank our cappucchinos I calmed down and I could look at what happened.

The trigger

The man who abused me used to wear grey or black pants with a simple black belt.
Which I always had to unbuckle. Quite a chore for those little fingers. It’s not at all surprising that the belts in the store brought back those feelings.
Feelings came first. The images later, while drinking coffee.
It’s obvious that this type of belt reminds me of the sexual abuse. Now I have a choice. By seeing the belt for what it was, just another black belt, nothing out of the ordinary or threatening about it, I can choose buy it. Or leave it.

Make your decision in the here and now

“I actually think this is a very ugly belt. I want something more flattering to support my femininity.”
We set out to find a salesclerk, who directed us to the lady’s belts. I bought a beautiful small blue belt with a simple clasp. I was so happy! (and its 6th hole fits by now…. I’m still shrinking!)

Take triggers seriously…

It’s that simple to get triggered.
It’s also that simple to deal with triggers, at least, once you’ve been through the healing process. Thing is: In the past I would’ve probably bought the black belt. I was not in the habig of taking myself seriously. If I would’ve even connected my discomfort to my sexual abuse trauma, I would’ve suppressed this knowledge and forced myself to wear the belt regardless.

…Then let go

Fortunately I don’t force myself like that anymore and I spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying myself tremendously. Shopping happily and freely.

Top tips from partners to stay true to your self

Top tips from partners

3 jan (24)

Not only do I talk to sexual abuse survivors, I often hear from their partners as well.
That’s why I decided to get together with some partners and discuss their struggles and tips, a while ago. The sessions turned out to be very successful. By sharing their thoughts and feelings they came up with a list of very useful tips, that I would like to share with you.

Top tips to stay true to your self

The following list is in random order, not in order of importance.
Note: This list was made by and for partners of sexual abuse survivors. So when we talk about partners in this blog, this means we are speaking about the person with sexual abuse trauma.

  • Share your thoughts, feelings, expectations with your partner. Don’t avoid doing so just to keep the peace.
  • Your needs count. Tell your partner what you need.
  • Keep the trauma outside of yourself. It’s good to feel compassion but don’t let your partner’s trauma become yours by letting it traumatize you.
  • Don’t try to solve the trauma. This is something only your partner can do.
  • Let go.
  • You have all the time in the world. Let things move at their own pace, just as long as they are moving.
  • When you both focus completely on your partner’s growth you’re selling yourself short. Make your own growth (more) important.
  • Put yourself on number 1. No matter how important your partner is to you, you are the most important person in your life.
  • Set boundaries. Communicate about what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
  • Make decisions. Even if your partner doesn’t want you to. Don’t be afraid to rock the boat if need be.
  • It’s okay to feel annoyed with your partner. He/she is a human being and at times irritating. Don’t always suck it up “because of her/his past.”
  • Treat your partner like an adult. He/she may often behave in a childlike manner sometimes when triggered. Don’t make allowances for this behavior on the shaky grounds that he/she had such a hard time as a child.
  • Don’t allow him/her to become too dependent. You can’t keep up, plus your partner needs to find her/his own independence.
  • Tell your partner everything. When you’re upset. Sad. Angry. This way it’s out in the open (good for you) and your partner learns to open up by your example.
  • Don’t honor every single requests. You don’t have to solve all her/his problems.
  • Discuss how best to handle conflicts before they arise. Consider time-outs. Or leave a note with the question/topic you want to discuss on the fridge, for your partner to come back to later. When your partner has a hard time talking to you about certain things, ask her/him to write you an email. This is sometimes easier than discussing hard topics face-to-face.

This is just a small selection of tips our partners came up with.
Please feel free to share any thoughts or tips you might have!
This is true for all my blogs. We love to hear your thoughts, anything you feel like sharing.